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Will. You. Please. Stop. Complaining. About. CCSS!

Some people complain about, belittle, denigrate, and deride anything that has to do with Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Why, people, why?

Do you want the United States to be mediocre?

The U.S. ranks 22nd among developed countries in the number of students who graduate from high school. Education at a Glance, OECD 2011

Do you want products of our educational system (AKA our students) to be unable to complete globally?

Is keeping an educational system that has proven itself over and over NOT to work for the majority of students REALLY preferable to getting on board with a system that has generated valuable conversations and forced evaluation of current practices?

I would like to make a difference here between intelligent, thoughtful people who disagree with aspects of the CCSS and the more vocal naysayers who just want it to go away, but have nothing to offer in the way of constructive criticism or alternative ideas.

“Supporters…say the standards will increase the rigor and quality of American schools and put the U.S. back on the map in terms of educational excellence.” Connie Matthiessen, Learn More about Common Core

Detractors wonder, “Has the federal government overreached and saddled our schools with standards that have been flawed from the start?” Embrace the Common Core Debate, September 9, 2014 intelligencesquaredus.org

This ongoing debate is GOOD for our country. Supporters need to voice their support more often and detractors need to come up with sound arguments, not just ‘government conspiracy’ theories. The CCSS were not, in fact created by the federal government. Nor are they overseen by the federal government.

“The Common Core is a state-led effort that is not part of No Child Left Behind or any other federal initiative. The federal government played no role in the development of the Common Core. State adoption of the standards is in no way mandatory.” Myths vs. Facts www.corestandards.org

So let’s embrace the debate that is going on and contribute to it in a helpful way. Let’s do our homework before criticizing and let’s join the conversation rather than standing apart, throwing stones.

For my money, CCSS is the best hope for our educational system and has the potential to close the opportunity gaps that currently exist for our students. It may not be perfect, but I believe it is moving us in the right direction. If we work together, we can make it better.  ccss

3 Very Good Reasons to Love CCSS

Education in this country needs to change. America’s students need to have the knowledge and competencies necessary to compete in a global economy. Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are the foundation that will help make that happen. It’s high time we stopped criticizing and started supporting CCSS. Here are 3 GOOD reasons why.

1)    American families are mobile. CCSS will ensure that our students’ education doesn’t suffer when they change schools.

Many families in the United States move frequently. According to a 2010 study released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), “…students who change schools the most frequently (four or more times) represented about 13% of all kindergarten through eighth grade (K-8) students…”  Keep in mind, this is an average. Some schools have a much higher percentage of transient students.

Research suggests that mobility has a negative effect on student achievement. This is due in large part to the vast differences between schools and districts concerning what students are required to know and be able to do.

There has been no alignment from state to state on what’s being taught, so when a second-grade student learning advanced addition and subtraction in the first quarter of the school year suddenly moves to another state in the second quarter, she may find she is being tested on multiplication facts.

Adoption and implementation of CCSS will help ensure that every school has the same requirements. Students will be able to transition more easily between schools and districts without losing ground academically.

2)    Memorizing facts does not equal thinking. CCSS holds students to a higher standard by requiring them to analyze, evaluate, and explain. 

For most of our history, classroom instruction has focused on a low-to-middle skill level, leaving students that aren’t there yet confused and students that are beyond it bored. All students have been simply asked to regurgitate what they were fed by teachers. No real thinking or engagement with the learning material was required.

The Common Core holds all students to a higher standard by requiring them to take part in their own learning and to think critically about content. Rather than simply reading a story and indentifying the plot from a memorized definition, students may be asked to evaluate the author of the story (voice, style, intention) or to read a non-fiction piece on the same topic and do a comprehensive comparison between the two.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) did a remarkable job of writing assessment questions that require students to show they know rather than merely choosing one of several multiple-choice answers. I know, I know, now we’re talking about assessment. My point is, when teachers use these assessments, they will necessarily alter their instruction. They will ask students to explain their thinking…in spoken words, through visual representations, in writing, or in other creative ways.

See an example below from the Grade 3 SBAC math practice test. Students need to drag the fractions to the number line to show they know how to compare fractions before they answer the Yes/No question. It is a much better window into what students are thinking than simply asking them to choose Yes or No, where the choice could easily be a guess.

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3)    Future careers will include the use of technology. CCSS will force faster implementation of technology in schools.

A vital skill in the workplace today is the ability to work collaboratively on projects with people who are not physically close together. Students unfamiliar with communication and collaboration technologies will be at a clear disadvantage in digital workplace environments. In fact, this is already happening.  “Organizations…are looking for their leaders who possess classic management and leadership capabilities to lead the business…but at the same time, they need to develop future leaders who have the ability to operate in technology-driven environments.” Amy McDonnell, The Hiring Site, November 16th, 2010, http://thehiringsite.careerbuilder.com/the-workplace-technology-gap-what-does-it-mean-for-you-and-your-employees/

Also, more students each year fall into the “digital native” category: they are growing up with technology. When these students do not (or are not allowed to) use technology in schools, there is a huge disconnect between their lives and their educational experiences. According to Marc Prensky, (who coined the term “digital native”) one of the most fundamental causes of the decline in US education is this: “Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach.” Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, from On the Horizon, MCB University Press, October 2001

The current piece-meal approach to acquiring and using technology in education is not working well. This approach only increases the divide between schools that are “haves” and those that are “have-nots.”  All of our students need to be adept at using technology, not just those from affluent families and schools.

Schools are notoriously slow to change. Adopting the CCSS will force changes to happen much faster than they normally would. If students are required to take the CCSS assessments online, schools will have to work harder to acquire the technology students need to succeed. When districts and schools are required to use technology, they will find a way to get it. In fairness, many schools already have. But we need ALL of our schools to have and use technology if we truly want to be competitive in the world economy.

 

For more information on the 2 Common Core consortia or to take the practice tests, visit http://www.smarterbalanced.org/ or http://www.parcconline.org/